Confused Motorists Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Law Says Swinton

Complete confusion exists on Britain’s roads as clueless drivers are mystified over what constitutes legal and illegal behaviour behind the wheel says Swinton.

Figures revealed by the leading high street insurance retailer highlight widespread confusion surrounding what constitutes a driving offence on today’s roads and the broker is calling for a tighter definition of the law to prevent drivers getting points on their licence or being disqualified.

Over three quarters of drivers think it’s perfectly legal to change a CD, hold a partner’s hand or light a cigarette when driving whereas nearly two thirds of people think it’s illegal to apply lipstick when behind the wheel.

The population is split over whether it’s legal to eat a sandwich at the wheel or not, with 51% of the 2,400 drivers questioned in a YouGov survey commissioned by Swinton considering this as illegal behaviour.

The truth is that any of these, or other acts including reading a map on your lap or resting your arms on the steering wheel could be considered illegal in the eyes of the law if the driver is deemed not to be in full control of the vehicle.

Swinton’s motor insurance division is concerned that this level of misunderstanding could result in drivers unwittingly breaking the law - facing a hefty fine or even disqualification for driving without due care and attention.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that, ‘If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road, he is guilty of an offence.’  Punishments for careless and inconsiderate driving can include a maximum fine of £2,500, up to nine points on your licence or disqualification*.

Chris Collings, insurer development director at Swinton said: “Our survey reveals the extent of confusion surrounding what people can and can’t do at the wheel.  Drivers need to completely understand the principal road safety laws if they are to adhere to them - not knowing whether an act is legal or illegal is an extremely dangerous position for drivers to be in. 

“Nearly all drivers questioned know that it’s illegal to use a mobile phone when driving, which is good news but we need to gain this level of certainty for all the other actions undertaken.

“Whether a person is in full control of a vehicle or not remains at the discretion of a police officer and is therefore ambiguous.  We are calling for a tighter definition of the law so any confusion is removed and drivers aren’t unwittingly acting illegally.”

Efforts to dispel the confusion comes as the Driving Standards Authority proposes 30 new rules to add to the new edition of the highway code - including smoking at the wheel.  Breaking these rules can result in drivers being handed a fixed penalty of up to £60, at the discretion of the police**.

3 July 2007 Staff

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